© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH

Club Zero
Austria/U.K./Germany/France/Denmark/Qatar 2023

Opening 28 Mar 2024

Directed by: Jessica Hausner
Writing credits: Jessica Hausner, Géraldine Bajard
Principal actors: Mia Wasikowska, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Amir El-Masry, Amanda Lawrence, Camilla Rutherford

Rich parents send their kids to a “Talent Campus” boarding school where the kids dress in yellow shirts, beige shorts, and purple socks. A school subject is Conscious Nutrition taught by Ms. Novak (Mia Wasikowska). She settles in with a group of seven students to discuss health, self-control, influence on the environment, etc. This eventually leads to them renouncing all food, i.e., fasting. Ultimately, three students drop out of the plan and Frau Novak continues with four members, who call themselves Club Zero: Ben, Elsa, Regna, and Fred. We see them seated at family dinner tables—not eating, which the parents find hard to accept, one father saying, “Eat the damned sausage!”

Sometimes they eat and then vomit; food goes into the garbage. Ben continues to eat “normally” and his mother worries, which action is acceptable, as he is dependent on the school’s scholarship. Ms. Novak awaits instructions from her boss, the fashionably dressed school principal Ms. Dorset (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who eats cookies. Then, Ms. Novak is fired by the Parents’ Association due to companionship with a student; she and Fred had gone to the opera together. Private “relationships” are forbidden. Things change on Christmas Day.

This is all “a question of faith,” or, in this case, of food.  I left the cinema hungry, after watching two hours of teenagers refusing to eat. I was most impressed with actor newcomer, Luke Barker, who plays Fred (not to be confused with actor Luke Baker).  He is a handsome boy, a ballet dancer, who can also be feminine, wearing makeup and nail polish when going to the opera. Club Zero premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. The German premiere was at the 2023 Munich Film Festival where the music was awarded first prize for “European Original Score.” Naturally, the original music was fine, especially the drummer, but there were also well-known songs such as “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” (Becky Tan)

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